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WSU Government Relations Newsbeat

State update for Friday March 24, 2011

One of the questions I get most often from Pullman centers around the status of the higher education regulatory reform package in the Legislature.  And it’s routinely one of the most difficult to answer.

By way of background, last year our state’s universities were asked to develop a list of measures that might offer some measure of relief at a time when budgets are being cut and staff is being increasingly overburdened. Some of the measures that were forwarded would save the universities actual money. Others would relieve staff of certain burdens.

Generally, the individual measures ranged from relieving universities of some duplicative reporting requirements to easing restrictions on purchasing practices.

Initially, all of these things were intended to move forward as a single package.  But due to title and single subject requirements in the Senate, the measures got broken up into multiple bills, which were then sent to a series of different committees.  As such, those of us advocating for the bills have been hard pressed to continually remind legislators that the single bill they’re reviewing is part of a larger package that we were asked to produce.

The status of the package is decidedly murky.

Senate Bill 5520, a measure to ease WSU’s municipal stormwater costs, did not advance from committee.  Senate Bill 5517, which would have allowed universities to pay only for state archiving services they actually used, has been put down.  So has Senate Bill 5518, which would have required direct deposit for state government employees.

Senate Bill 5516, which would allow universities to pay in advance for certain maintenance costs in order to get reduced rates, is alive and well.  So is House Bill 1663, which would remove a requirement that universities purchase 2 percent of materials, supplies, services and equipment from the Department of Corrections.

A series of other measures are likely to end up in House Bill 1795, which is Rep. Reuven Carlyle’s tuition flexibility bill.  These could include ones that provide relief on reporting requirements, purchasing restrictions and a relief from a series of limitations on things such as personal service contracts, equipment purchases, out-of-state travel and hiring.

Some measures may show up in budget language.  This would include measures to eliminate or change the floor and raise the ceiling for minor capital projects and make pre-design for capital projects under $10 million permissive but not mandatory.

And still others that don’t make the cut this year may be moved into a process for discussion this summer and fall leading into next year’s legislative session.

State Update for Tuesday March 22, 2011

It’s the 72nd day of this year’s 105-day legislative session and there’s much to report.

Last week the state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council issued a new quarterly report that stretched the state’s multi-billion dollar budget gap even wider.  For the remainder of the current two-year budget cycle, which ends June 30, the report reduced expected revenues by $80 million.  For the new two-year budget cycle that begins July 1, the report reduced anticipated tax collections by $698 million.

It should be noted that it could have been even worse.  Prognosticators on the Capitol campus feared reductions that would have exceeded $1 billion.

That said, what we witnessed constitutes a significant reduction.

A final, third supplemental 2009/11 budget is expected but it seems unlikely to be released before the release of the 2011/13 biennial budget.

And on that front, leaders in the House of Representatives previously planned on releasing their budget proposal as soon as today.  But those plans appear to have been put on hold for at least a week or more following the release of the forecast.  So stay tuned.

In other news, Friday is the next cutoff for all bills to be moved out of their policy committees.  Senate bills are being heard in House committees and House bills are being heard in Senate committees.  Among the bills we’re working to make sure they clear this hurdle is Senate Bill 5636 concerning the University Center of North Puget Sound and Senate Bill 5519, which would give colleges and universities a bit more freedom when it comes to purchasing.

Federal Update for March 21, 2011

The current Continuing Resolution will keep the Federal Government running until April 8th.  There were several WSU congressionally directed projects included in either the House or Senate appropriations bills the following items have been removed during the Continuing Resolution process and will not be funded in the FY2011 appropriations.  In addition to reducing “earmarks” Congress is also looking at reducing or eliminating funding to authorized programs.  Potential programs they may reduce funding to are Hatch Act, Smith-Lever 3b-c and McIntire-Stennis accounts.

Agriculture formula funding – at present the formal funding has not been eliminated but there is an effort to roll back the funds to FY2008 numbers rather than maintain FY2010 funding levels.

NIFA Program FY 2008 FY 2010 Est. Impact
Hatch Act (Research) 3,674,822 3,872,378 -197,556
Smith-Lever 3b-c (Extension) 4,076,293 4,399,342 -323,049
McIntire-Stennis (Forestry) 342,311 398,129 -55,818
Subtotal $8,093,426 $8,669,849 -$576,423

Agriculture Appropriations – traditionally WSU receives approximately a combined $3.5 million for these projects which is spent on research staff and graduate students to address research topics not traditionally fundable through NIFA competitive grant programs.  In addition to items listed below WSU also receive funds from the Viticulture Consortium (West), through UC Davis and funds to the Composite Materials and Engineering Center through the University of Idaho.

Aegilops Cylindrica (Jointed Goatgrass/Biomass)

Aquaculture Research

Barley Gene Mapping

Cool Season Food Legumes

Food Security

Grass Seed Cropping Systems for Sustainable Agriculture

Impact

Organic Cropping

Potato Research

Small Fruit Research

STEEP IV

Virus-free Wine Grape Cultivars, Wine Grape Foundation Block

USDA Agriculture Research Service funding reductions/elimination in the agriculture appropriations bill:

2012 funding for ARS Laboratory at Pullman, WA

Energy and Water Appropriations

Algae Biofuels Research

As we learn more about specific budget and appropriations to or from federal programs we will post the information.  If you have questions or have heard information from program managers that you are working with please pass the information on to the Government Affairs team or directly to me, Kristi Growdon, Director of Federal Relations, growdonk@wsu.edu or call 206-349-2772.

Federal update for March 16th 2011

The 2nd Continuing Resolution H.J. Res 48

By a vote of 271 to 158, the House cleared H.J. Res. 48, the three-week continuing resolution (CR) that would keep the government funded through April 8. The current CR expires this Friday evening.

The Senate is expected to pass this CR also by the end of this week.

You can read the bill at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hjres48eh/pdf/BILLS-112hjres48eh.pdf

Direct impact of the CR on WSU will be listed next week.

Federal Funding of NPR;

H.R. 1076 was introduced today that will “prohibit federal funding of NPR and the use of federal funding to acquire radio content. WSU’s Murrow College operates Northwest Public Radio a 15-station network. WSU currently receives $486,390 from Community Service Grants.

Major Provisions to H.R. 1076:

Prohibits direct federal funding of National Public Radio.
NPR received over $5 million in direct funding in FY10 from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Department of Education, Department of Commerce, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Prohibits stations from using federal funds to pay NPR dues. Current Corporation for Public Broadcasting Guidelines allow public radio stations to use their federal grant funding for the payment of dues to NPR.
Prohibits public radio stations from using federal funds to purchase programming.
The bill permits public radio stations to use non-federal funds for the payment of NPR dues and the acquisition of programming.
Stations can continue to receive federal grants for the production of their own programming.

You can read the bill in its complete form at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr1076ih/pdf/BILLS-112hr1076ih.pdf

State update for Monday March 14, 2011

It’s the 64th legislative day and it kicks off a week that followers of the legislative process have been awaiting – if not eagerly. At noon on Thursday the state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council is scheduled to release its latest quarterly forecast of state tax collections.

It’s this report that legislators will use to determine how big the next biennial budget can be. And leaders in the House of Representatives are hoping to release their budget proposal by as soon as next week.

But all signs are pointing to another dismal forecast. Actual tax collections during the past three months have fallen shy of expectations by $85 million, an ominous sign. It’s now expected Thursday’s forecast could increase the size of Washington’s already sizable budget shortfall by as much as $1 billion or more. That would require even deeper cuts than what already are being contemplated.

Otherwise, after last week’s floor cutoff legislators are back in committees this week hearing bills. Senate bills are now being heard in House committees and House bills are being heard in Senate committees. Policy bills have to be moved out by March 25 to stay alive.

On the docket this week of interest to WSU is today’s hearing on House Bill 1422, which would authorize the Department of Natural Resources to develop a demonstration project involving the use of forest biomass in the production of aviation fuel. WSU has been a leader in the bioproducts arena and will be testifying in support.

On Tuesday WSU will be testifying in support of House Bill 1586, which would allow doctorate programs at branch campuses. And on Wednesday, WSU will be testifying in support of Senate Bill 5636, which is the North Puget Sound University Center bill.

Federal update for March 11th, 2011

Appropriations Committee Introduces Three Week Continuing Resolution –
Bill will Prevent Government Shutdown, Cut $6 Billion in Spending

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers today introduced a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government at current rates for three weeks -until April 8 – while cutting $6 billion in spending. The legislation (H.J. Res 48) is the second short-term funding extension to prevent a government shutdown while Congressional negotiations continue on a long-term plan to keep the government running through the end of the fiscal year.

“A government shutdown is not an option, period. While short term funding measures are not the preferable way to fund the government, we must maintain critical programs and services for the American people until Congress comes to a final, long-term agreement. This legislation also includes $6 billion in spending cuts – a $2 billion cut for every week of funding – to continue our efforts to rein in spending and put a dent in our massive, $1.5 trillion deficit,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said.

The cuts in H.J. Res 48 include funding rescissions, reductions, and program terminations. The bill also eliminates earmark accounts within the Agriculture, Commerce/Justice/Science, Financial Services/General Government, and Interior subcommittee jurisdictions.

All of the spending cuts in this legislation were also included in H.R.1 – which was passed by the House – and many of these reductions and terminations were supported by President Obama in his annual budget requests. In addition, while not being approved by the Senate this week, H.R.1 garnered more Senate votes than the Senate Democrats’ competing proposal.

This short term CR is expected to be considered by the House next week. To view the text of the legislation, please visit: www.rules.house.gov

Federal update for March 9, 2011

The US Senate voted today, 3/9/2011, on the House’s long-term continuing resolution (H.R. 1) and the Senate’s long-term continuing resolution (S Amdt. 149). Both bills were rejected. The current continuing resolutions will expire March 18th.

State update for March 8, 2011

It’s the 58th day of this year’s 105 day legislative session. Yesterday we reached the first floor cutoff, an important milestone on the session schedule. That means all bills not necessary to implement the budget must have gained approval in their house of origin to remain alive.
Here’s how a series of WSU priorities are faring so far.

The Budget
Additional supplemental cuts were approved in House Bill 1086 earlier this session and the next forecast of state tax collections is due March 17. Lawmakers will use that forecast to draft their budget. Leaders in the House are hoping to announce their proposal the following week.
Tuition Policy
House Bill 1666 and House Bill 1795 are the primary vehicles under discussion this year. Both are considered necessary to implement the budget and remain alive despite today’s cutoff. The first is being fashioned into a bill that speaks to principles about funding higher education. The second would give universities four years of tuition setting authority, address financial aid concerns and establish performance and accountability measures. Both remain works in progress. Discussion has been more limited in the Senate, where Senate Bill 5717 is the vehicle.
North Puget Sound University Center
House Bill 1792 and Senate Bill 5636 both have been approved in their respective chambers with strong votes. Nearly identical, the bills would authorize WSU to begin offering an engineering program at the North Puget Sound University Center in Everett and begin writing an academic plan that would contemplate future baccalaureate expansion there. If blessed by the Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Systems Design Review process, WSU would assume management of the center in 2014.
Regulatory Relief
A series of regulator relief bills remain alive and other concepts may yet be worked into the budget. Senate Bill 5516 would allow the university to purchase equipment maintenance services for up to five years after payment to achieve cost savings. House Bill 1663 removes the requirement universities purchase from Correctional Industries. Senate Bill 5519 eases restrictions on small contracts. All have been approved in their respective chamber. Another measure, Senate Bill 5520, would have provided WSU relief on its municipal stormwater costs but was not moved out of its policy committee.
Trust Land Revenues
Senate Bill 5576 would give WSU more control over its building fees and trust land revenues. In the near term it would all the university to bundle costs in paying for preservation and minor works projects, saving money while improving credit strength. In the long term it could fund design or even construction activities for new buildings, so long as revenue growth is adequate. The bill has been approved in the Senate and now goes to the House.

Federal update for March 7, 2011

Update of activities in Washington DC by the Administration and Congress. The notes below are a collection of information I receive from various sources. The situation is very fluid so you may find some changes in the information below  and information you hear in the news or read on the web.

Continuing Resolution information

“After the House and Senate passed the measure last week, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill March 2 that will keep the federal government operating through March 18, temporarily averting a shutdown while a longer-term spending plan is negotiated.

House Republicans rejected a late bid to stretch the extension to 30 days and passed (335-91) the short term continuing resolution last Tuesday, with the Senate following (91-9) the following day, just two days before the previous CR was set to expire March 4. The measure will continue current funding for most programs, while also cutting $4 billion from the FY2011 levels; the final cuts represented a compromise as they were drawn primarily from President Obama’s own budget blueprint. It also did not contain any of the policy riders included in the longer CR passed by the House last month.

The House passed a seven-month bill (H.R. 1) in February that contained $61 billion in cuts from the fiscal year 2010 budget, roughly $100 billion from the requested FY 2011 levels, and last week Senate Democrats released their own version of the funding proposal that includes $51 billion in reductions from the president’s proposed fiscal year 2011 budget. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced March 4 that the Senate will consider both the House-passed measure and the recently introduced Senate proposal this week. A cloture vote on a motion to proceed to H.R. 1 could occur as early as March 8. – from email sent from David Leiter of MLStrategies, 3/7/2011.”

“On Friday afternoon, Senate Democrats released an outline of their initial offer on a long-term continuing resolution (CR).  There are some cuts in the Senate proposal, but generally the bill would fund student aid and nearly all research programs at higher levels than the CR proposed by the House in H.R. 1.  However, the Senate bill offers lower than current operating levels for some key research agencies and accounts (see below for further analysis and links to Senate documents).
The Senate is expected to take up both H.R. 1 and the Senate FY2011 proposal this week.  Conventional wisdom indicates neither bill will pass the Senate, setting the stage for negotiations between the House, the Senate, and the White House to proceed in earnest.  It is likely another short-term CR will be necessary before a final FY2011 bill can be enacted.” – from email sent from APLU President Peter McPherson 3/7/2011

Senate Bill Compared to H.R. 1
Pell Grant
In the Senate bill, the maximum Pell Grant award would remain $5550 and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG) would be funded at $757 million. In H.R. 1, the Pell Grant maximum award would be cut to $4,705 and SEOG would be eliminated. .” – from email sent from APLU President Peter McPherson 3/7/2011

Research Funding
On the research front, an initial analysis and comparison indicates the Senate proposal would keep the :

Agency Senate House – H.R. 1
NIH 2010 level Cut $1.6 billion from 2010
NSF Cut $20 million from 2010 Cut $359 million
DOE Office of Science Cut $171 million from 2010 Cut $890 million from 2010
DOE (ARPA-E) Funded at $200 million Funded at $50 million
USDA – NIFA Funded at $1.285 billion Funded at $1.142 billion
Within NIFA -AFRI Increase $17.5 million from 2010 Cut $34.7 million from 2010
Nation Endowment for Humanities Funded at $167.5 million Funded at $145 million

National Institutes of Health (NIH) virtually at the FY2010 level while the House-passed bill would cut NIH by $1.6 billion from FY2010.

The Senate bill would cut the National Science Foundation (NSF) by $20 million and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science by $171 million while H.R. 1 would cut NSF by $359 million and DOE Office of Science by $890 million from FY2010.

The DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) would be funded at $200 million in the Senate bill and $50 million in H.R. 1.

For agriculture research, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) would be funded at $1.285 billion in the Senate proposal compared to $1.142 billion in the House-passed bill, both lower than the FY2010 level of $1.358 billion.  Within NIFA, the Senate bill would increase the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) by $17.5 million while H.R. 1 would decrease AFRI by $34.7 million compared to the FY2010 level of $262.5 million.  The Senate bill would fund the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) at $167.5 million, $22.5 million more than H.R. 1.

A summary document is available on the Senate Appropriations Committee website.  Summaries of each section and the entire legislative text also are available

– from email sent from APLU President Peter McPherson 3/7/2011

Information regarding Energy Issues – March 7, 2011

Congressional information

ARPA-E Funding Approval Unlikely
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) told participants of the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit March 1 that Congress is not likely to approve President Obama’s $550 million budget request for the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy. The agency, which funds the research and development of risky long-term energy projects and is a top priority of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, was provided $389 million in stimulus funding in 2009, and is authorized at $306 million for fiscal year 2010. – from email sent from David Leiter of MLStrategies, 3/7/2011.

Conrad Calls for Energy Legislation
During a committee hearing on the president’s fiscal year 2012 budget request for the Department of Energy, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) said March 2 that passage of broad energy legislation and strong deficit reduction measures should be the top priorities for the 112th Congress. Energy Secretary Steven Chu defended the administration’s $29.5 billion budget request for the department, a $3.1 billion increase, as a necessary investment in new technologies. He also talked about the importance of hastening the loan guarantee process and the need for a clean energy standard – from email sent from David Leiter of MLStrategies, 3/7/2011.

Administration information

Climate Office Dissolved
Heather Zichal, President Obama’s new top aide on climate and energy policy, said last week that the White House climate and energy office will be dissolved into the Domestic Policy Council, with everyone staying except Carol Browner, who is expected to leave mid-month. The staff of six will focus on the clean energy agenda President Obama laid out in his State of the Union speech. – from email sent from David Leiter of MLStrategies, 3/7/2011.

DOE and DOD Collaborate on Storage Project
The departments of Energy and Defense announced March 2 that they will collaborate to develop a grid-scale energy storage device for future defense systems. The joint effort, to be initiated in fiscal year 2012, will use the technological expertise of the Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, and will be funded by approximately $25 million, pending congressional approval, from both of the agencies over five years. – from email sent from David Leiter of MLStrategies, 3/7/2011.